Montbéliarde cattle have been at the core of Kenny Roberts’ low-input low-cost dairy and integrated beef finishing system in Rathangan, Co Kildare, for over twenty years.
His journey with the breed began with an initial three females in 2002, when he took the reins of his family farm from his father.
He later imported some females from France and grew the herd to its current size of 130 cows, the majority of which are pedigree.
Based on 2022 data, cows, on average, delivered 458kgs of milk solids, at 4.02% fat and 3.56% protein, from a concentrate input of 700kgs/cow and glass and clover swards.
According to Roberts, the herd’s calving interval sits at 365 days, with an 82% 6-week calving rate, a 6% voluntary culling rate, a further 6% involuntary culling rate, and a 22-24-month-old age of first calving for heifers (due to stockbull in first weeks of calving 2023).
The current chairperson of the Montbéliarde Cattle Society told Dovea Genetics’ information webinar:
“Over the years, I have found Montbéliarde to be very good milkers and having a good temperament in that you never have to put a kicking bar on any of them.”
“I get breeding advice from Ferreol Roche, Coopex export manager and year on year; you can see the improvements. With cow banding coming into place now, I am probably going to try to aim more towards solids rather than litres.”
“The average lactation number is about 4.1-4.2, I think, which is above the national average, but it can always be improved. I am very happy with the health of the cows as they are quiet, robust animals, and I only had to call the vet twice last year.”
Out of 130 calves born on the farm, he sells 30 annually, for which he has “no problem getting customers for those”.
He uses Angus, Belgian Blue, Limousin and Aubrac sires, which, when crossed with Montbéliarde cows, produce what he regards as “very salable” calves.
Moreover, he utilises Red Angus genetics on non-replacements and sells heifer calves to suckler herds and brings other Angus heifers through to slaughter at 320kgs at 20 months, grading R-s.
He slaughters all Montbéliarde and Angus progeny as steers, with Angus finishing at 22 months, killing out as Rs at 320kgs and Montbéliardes finishing at 24 months, grading O+s and killing out at 360kgs, on average.
“I am happy with the increased strength of the animal, the saleable calf, especially bulls, which could be even more important down the line, and improved health.”
“I am happy with the milk yield and probably have to improve solids, but I am getting the best of both worlds by using Montbéliardes,” he concluded.
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